I never paid that much attention to Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye as part of the Avengers. He was just kinda there, one of the only ones (along with Black Widow/Natasha) without superpowers and/or suits. The much reviled Avengers: Age of Ultron did give him a new dimension by introducing his family, which I did enjoy seeing, along with this:
That was one of the few good things to come out of an otherwise forgettable movie.
This all changed with Avengers: Endgame. I thought Hawkeye should have been sacrificed instead of Natasha Romanoff to get the Soul Stone, and said so. So I came to this series with a bit of a built-in bias against the main character (also, Jeremy Renner has not exactly covered himself with glory either). I might not have watched the show at all if it had not been for the fact that it's introducing who is apparently intended to be the next generation Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. I own two Kate Bishop graphic novels and enjoyed them very much. Hailee Steinfeld, the actor, has been turning in good performances since True Grit. So I decided to give it a chance.
The first two episodes dropped yesterday, and are set six days before Christmas, evidently two years after the events of Endgame in the Marvel timeline. This is not long enough for Clint Barton to recover from losing Natasha, as we see in the very first scene. It is, however, long enough for someone to write and stage a Broadway show called "Rogers: The Musical," which I guess is meant to be Marvel's bombastic answer to "Hamilton." It's an over-the-top restaging of the Battle of New York, with the tagline of "I can do this all day." Hawkeye, who is in town with his three children to "reconnect," watches the show until the actor playing Natasha dances across the screen, at which point he can't take anymore. He turns down his hearing aids (he's later shown as needing them due to all the explosions he lived through fighting for the Avengers) to tune out the music, but he finally has to get up and leave, about halfway through the show. He is uncomfortable with all of it, the veneration for the Avengers and his own celebrity, as we see throughout both episodes. Unfortunately, the other main character of the show we and he are about to meet, Kate Bishop, is majorly star-struck on Hawkeye, and that naive hero worship is going to get her (and Clint) in all sorts of trouble.
Kate does have a good reason for it though: she and her parents were in New York when the Chitauri came through, and an arrow from Hawkeye skewered one of the monsters that was coming straight for her. Later, at her father's funeral, her mother Eleanor asks what a pre-teen Kate wants, and she replies: "A bow and arrow." Jump to the present day when Kate is in college and on the archery team (as well as studying martial arts and fencing, and winning medals for both) and on a dare, she climbs to one of the top floors of her college's buildings and shoots an arrow into a neighboring building's bell tower to ring the bell. She does hit the bell, but then it falls to the bottom of the tower and takes an expensive antique clock with it.
Kate says she is 22 years old, and the way she is characterized fits that age: she is brash, inexperienced, naive, impulsive and reckless. A monologue from her mother in the first episode sums her up perfectly: "Young people think they're invincible, and rich people think they're invincible. You have always been both. You're not. You will get hurt. Don't go out looking for it." (Trouble, that is, which Kate proceeds to do from the get-go.) She is sent home to her mother in New York in disgrace, where we meet her mother Eleanor's boyfriend, Jack. We see right away that Kate doesn't like Jack (with good reason, as we find out). She accompanies them to a charity gala where she meets Jack's uncle Armand ("third of seven," he pompously informs Kate) and Armand drops the bomb that Eleanor and Jack are engaged. Kate confronts her mother about this and storms out to get some air (where she meets a one-eyed golden retriever that will play a role in the story going forward--and the dog doesn't die, at least not yet). When she comes back in she overhears Armand saying something to her mother that sounds like a threat. Evidently thinking she is a sleuth, Kate follows Armand and Jack downstairs to a hidden room in the basement, where they are attending a secret underground auction.
The auction is selling off superhero souvenirs for bored rich people, including the Ronin sword and Ronin suit from Hawkeye's time as the masked murderer. (Armand and Jack bid on the former, and Armand tells Jack he can't afford it. Jack then makes an ominous crack about the money he's going to inherit one day.) While the auction is proceeding, Kate is discovered, and as she ducks into the back hallways and tunnels to escape the head caterer who knows she's not supposed to be there, she runs on to a group of Russian-speaking guys with guns and ski masks that are obviously up to no good. Sure enough, just as the bidding begins on the Ronin suit, the back wall of the underground room is blown out, and the Russians run through the room, looking for "the watch from the Avengers compound."
In the confusion, Jack picks up the Ronin sword (or rather the pommel--the blade retracts into and pops out of it, so the thing must have been designed by Stark Industries) and shoves it in his tuxedo jacket, and Kate stumbles across the Ronin suit. Since she apparently can't resist the shiny black and gold covering of a villain she knows nothing about, she puts it on. The Russian thugs see her and we realize they have a history with the Ronin, as Kate has to fight her way out. She karate-chops her way through the crowd successfully, although she does have enough sense to run when she realizes she is going to be outnumbered. She emerges on the street above just as another one of the gang finds the Avengers watch--and gets attacked by a dog, the very same dog we saw earlier, for his trouble.
(And isn't that a coincidence? I haven't read the 2012-2015 Hawkeye comics run much of this story is based on, but one wonders if this "dog" is going to be the equivalent of Goose, Captain Marvel's cat.)
The dog takes off across the street, gets stranded in traffic, and Kate, still wearing the suit, backflips across a line of cars to pull him out of harm's way. This, of course, gets recorded on somebody's cellphone, and the footage is later shown on the evening news--just in time for Clint Barton, who has returned with his kids from visiting the city's Christmas tree, to see.
After dropping the dog at her apartment, Kate sneaks into Jack's place to see just what he is up to, and stumbles across the body of Armand, freshly slain. Escaping the crime scene, she runs into the Russian gang, which either followed her (and if so, that's a helluva big plot hole--how?) or are the ones who killed Armand. She makes a good account of herself again, but this time it's five or six to one. She barricades herself inside an unlocked SUV, I guess trying to find the keys and drive away? when the biggest thug of the Russians punches out the driver's side window. But before he can drag her out, he's yanked away and the rest of the gang is quickly disposed of, by, you guessed it, Clint Barton. Clint pulls her away and down an alley, where he rips off the Ronin mask. Kate gasps, "You're Hawkeye!" and Clint says, "And who the hell are you?"
This ends the first episode, "Never Meet Your Heroes." The second episode, "Hide and Seek," picks up right away, with Clint attempting to bail Kate out of the trouble she has made for herself (and him) with the Russians, the so-called "Trackside Mafia."
(And may I say that these guys are about the most underwhelming antagonists ever? They're shown throughout this episode to be little more than bumbling dumbasses, even if they get to toss a few Molotov cocktails into Kate's apartment in an attempt to burn her out. At the very end of this episode, we meet their boss, a fierce-looking young Latina woman. I hope she makes a better villain than her minions.)
Now that are two characters have met and are interacting with each other, the show picks up a bit. Kate's smart-alecky youth and eagerness is a nice contrast to Clint's tired cynicism--he doesn't want to get back in this game anymore, but he feels he has to do something to help Kate. He takes her back to her apartment so she can change out of the suit and give it to him, only to be followed and surprised (again--how?) by our favorite Russian dumbasses. With the apartment burning, they have to snatch the dog and flee, leaving the suit behind. After stashing Kate elsewhere, Clint returns to the apartment, sneaks a firefighter's coat and hat from one of the engines outside and puts it on, and prowls around, looking for the suit. It's gone, but as he puts the coat away he notices a sticker on the engine window for NYC Larpers and wonders if one of these people has lifted the suit. He visits their website and sees that this is in fact the case, as there is a picture of someone with the suit. The next morning, after hustling his children off on their flight back home and saying he will join them later, he returns to where Kate is hidden. By this time, the report of Armand's murder is also on the news, and Kate refuses to stay where she is (her aunt's apartment) any longer. She says she will be safest at her mother's security company, so Clint drops her off there, after programming his number into her phone "in case of an emergency" (which direction we already know, and he should too, that she will completely ignore).
There follows the funniest scene in the episode, of Clint going to the LARPer tournament to get his suit back. He isn't permitted to walk in and talk to the person who's wearing it--no, he actually has to sign up and fight his way to that person. Which he does, in a cleverly filmed slo-mo sequence where he wallops his way through the crowd with his fake plastic broadsword. The guy who has the suit, Grills, recognizes him as Hawkeye and won't give it back unless he can get the ego boost of defeating an Avenger. Clint rolls his eyes but acquiesces to this request. Having gotten the suit back, he stashes it in a locker and calls his wife, telling her he's not going to make his flight. He tells her exactly what is going on, and this conversation is the most interesting one of the show so far, as it reveals that his wife is aware that Clint was the Ronin and what he did during the five years she and the children were gone. (I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. How would you cope, knowing your husband was a murderous vigilante for five years?) Clint says he has to take care of the "Tracksuit Mafia," and his wife reminds him he has 5 days to do it.
After work that evening, Kate has dinner with her mother and Jack. Kate makes several attempts to bait Jack into revealing what he is, and finally talks him into fencing with her. He lets her touch him with the foil several times, condescendingly letting her win, until she finally attacks when he isn't looking and he rips the blade out of her hand. (Which would explain why he was so interested in the Ronin sword.) Kate tries to tell her mother Jack is hiding something, but Eleanor refuses to listen. When Kate leaves, she immediately calls Clint (of course) saying she has "clues," and damned if one of the Russian dumbasses doesn't pick up. He growls, "Clint Barton cannot talk to you right now," but apparently doesn't cut the connection (my God, these people are stupid) which allows Kate to track Clint's location.
Following through on what he told his wife earlier, Clint has set up a bait-and-switch scam and lets himself be captured by the Tracksuit Mafia. He's trying to talk to their boss, and they're still trying to find Kate Bishop. Which they do without exerting any effort, as Kate, wearing her fancy purple archer's outfit, crashes through the ceiling where Clint is being held in a misguided attempt to rescue him! The last shot of the episode is the both of them tied up, and the Russian dumbasses' boss about to come out to confront them.
Well. The most interesting character in this show is Kate, but she needs to grow up a bit. Still, Hailee Steinfeld plays her exceptionally well--Marvel certainly nailed the casting for this character. And I'm waiting to see how the one-eyed dog fits into all this. It's a promising start, I think, but they do need a better villain. Hopefully either Jack or the young Latina woman will level up to provide one.